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Anatomy of Changing Sales Culture Part 2 - Guiding Ideas


Your people want to be led!

We all know change is not easy - it’s necessary but not easy.  Getting one sales person to evolve their skills is difficult enough.  Now add the complexity of changing the sales culture where you're asking the entire organization to look at what they do and how they do it differently - and to change their behaviors, well, this requires leadership.

If you missed Part 1 - Let Them Know You Care, Click Here

Culture Changing Criteria #2 - Define & Communicate Your Guiding Ideas

Leadership begins with the definition and communication of your guiding ideas.  In my book Driving Distributor Sales Beyond, Best Practices for Outselling Your Competitors (currently a top 10 best seller for its publisher, the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Institute for Distribution Excellence) I define Guiding Ideas as “an idea or set of ideas that guide your company in fulfilling its mission.”

Changing the sales culture requires senior management to define the desired destination road signdestination.  Typically this destination is articulated in one of, or a combination of three forms of guiding ideas:

  • Vision - defines that future reality you really believe is possible with committed effort.
  • Mission - defines how you plan to win in your business.
  • Purpose - defines why your business is in business.

I don’t want you to get hung up on what you develop being a vision, mission, or purpose.  Categorizing how you are going to articulate what your sales culture change is destined to achieve is not as important as having a clear and memorable guiding idea that resonates with your sales team.

Here are four examples that meet these criteria:

  • To be a fully effective business partner.
  • To improve the net income for ourselves, our customers, and our suppliers.
  • Insure our independent dealer customers grow and prosper.
  • To help our customers achieve competitive advantage and improve their profits, safety, and productivity.

With each of these there is an inherent benefit to the organization, the customer, and maybe most importantly the sales person we are asking to change.  It’s also important to note here that these guiding ideas are not themes of sales meetings - they are a commitment that require certain behaviors to live and fulfill everyday.

Defining Your Guiding Idea

As you work to define your Guiding Idea, that will be used to lead your sales team to that new culture and ultimately improved results, here are five observations our research for writing Driving Distributor Sales Beyond uncovered:

Well Thought Out - It goes without saying, don’t use one of the four examples as your own.  Your business, markets, culture (both present and future), etc. is unique and requires a unique guiding idea.  Develop this with care.  Devote time, energy and focus to developing the idea and engage the right people in the process.

Realistic - Note that each of the four examples above set an ideal standard and calls for the sales organization to stretch.  But they are also attainable once the right behaviors are in place.

Versatile - Guiding ideas are not meant to communicate a certain program with a start and end date.  Your guiding idea needs to resonate today - and years down the road - despite the changes your market and business will experience.

Relevant - You can’t promise to be all things to all people.  But you can create a picture that your people can look at and say, “I can make this happen within my sphere of responsibility.”

Heart and Soul - When you hear a CEO talk about the guiding idea, you can immediately tell if she believes - really believes in the direction.  Those who succeed in changing the sales culture, when they speak of the guiding idea, it seems to flow from them with ease, as if they and the guiding idea were one and the same.  It’s actually very cool to witness a leader who believes in the guiding idea down to their core.

Looking Forward

Here is what you’ll find in parts three through eight as we continue exploring the anatomy of changing sales culture.

Part Three - Custom Solutions
Part Four - Executive Management Commitment
Part Five - Line Manager’s Commitment
Part Six - Nothing Worthwhile Comes Easy
Part Seven - Raise The Bar
Part Eight - The Long Haul

Be sure to sign up for this blog in the upper right corner of this page to be sure you’re notified when each of these are published.

And for now…share with me in the comments below your thoughts on the importance of guiding ideas.

Here’s to moving your potential forward!

Credits: Destination road sign, American Advertising Federation, Central Georgia


I like where you're going with this - pragmatic as well as idealistic. The real world is always messier than the one we imagine.
Posted @ Friday, September 09, 2011 9:13 AM by Mike Hattie
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Thank you for your visit, hope you like it!
Posted @ Sunday, October 09, 2011 2:45 AM by cuang
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